The Ladies' Tea Guild

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Clothing the Californio, part 2 -- re-creating 18th century Spanish California costume

Spanish girl and woman, and their Moorish and Indian maids.
By Father Ignacio Tirsch, ca. 1770.  Baja California.
So, in analyzing the images of Spanish-era/18th century Californio women, these are the common clothing elements: white linen camisa (women's shirt/chemise) with medium-high neckline (no visible cleavage) edged with a gathered ruffle, with full elbow-length sleeves edged with a gathered ruffle that shows under the jacket sleeves; fitted wool or linen cuerpo or casaca (bodice or casaque/jacket), with medium-high round or square neckline (no visible cleavage), waist pointed at center front, stiffened with light boning and/or cording in front and at body seams, elbow-length sleeves with a slightly longer ruffle (compared to ruffle on camisa sleeves), hip-length peplum/skirt attached to the back and sides of bodice at waist edge, laced over a dark/contrasting stomacher, or laced or possibly hook/eye fastened closed edge-to-edge at center front; two (non-ruffled) ankle-length faldas, or petticoats, in solid colors (wealthier women are shown in cotton print petticoats), including red – often with white cotton or linen yoke from the waist to the hips and red wool or other color from there to the hem; black or white cotton or wool stockings and plain brown or black leather shoes with low heels; solid-colored, or white, or striped, cotton or linen rebozo (rectangular cloth veil or shawl), or lace mantilla (large rectangular or triangular veil worn by wealthier women) -- no cap, hat or bonnet -- covering the head, and wrapped around the shoulders and neck; hair braided and wound around the head (perhaps like 16th century Italian hair taping) under the rebozo or mantilla


_De espanol y negra, mulato_. By Miguel Cabrera, c. 1770.
Accessories include a white or colored apron with rounded bottom edges, edged with wide, self-fabric bias ruffle (or no ruffle for poorer women), maybe a crucifix on a black ribbon around the neck or a coral bead necklace, and delicate dangling earrings for wealthier women.  Native women at the pueblos are shown wearing a solid color petticoat, with a white linen camisa (no jacket), a solid color rebozo, with their hair braided in one or two braids hanging down the back, and no shoes or stockings.  Women of African descent are often shown wearing a manga – a mantle that looks like a full skirt – over their shoulders, on top of their camisa, chaqueta and falda, and a colored and/or striped scarf wrapped around their hair, turban-like, instead of a rebozo.

Spanish women, Spanish man, and a boy in Baja California,
by Father Ignacio Tirsch, 1762.
Early Spanish-era Californio man's clothing includes these elements: white linen or cotton camisa (men's shirt) – no ruffles except for the Governor -- and calzoncillos, (long-leg drawers) as underclothes; dark wool or thin leather pantalones or trousers, that are left open at the side seam from the knees down (tied around the leg with leather thongs when on horseback); a dark wool, skirted, abrigo, or jacket-coat with long sleeves and metal buttons to fasten center front; a colorful, striped, fringed, wool serape, or large rectangular blanket-cape, worn over it, either draped over one shoulder, or with a hole in the middle for the head, the ends either hanging down front and back, or one end hanging down the back with the front piece swung across the body and over one shoulder to hang down the back; white, black, or natural wool or cotton stockings and brown or black leather shoes or boots with metal spurs on the heels; a clean-shaven face; hair perhaps shoulder-length, but slicked back from the face and tied into a queue with a black ribbon and bow; wide-brimmed leather or straw sombrero (hat) held on with leather chin strap; leather cintur├│n, or belt, and wide red wool or cotton faja, or sash, around the waist. Wealthier ranch owners are shown with ruffles on their shirt fronts, more colors woven or embroidered on their serapes, and silver coin buttons on their trousers. Native men at the pueblos are generally shown in shabbier versions of the above, minus the metal buttons and embroidery.  Military men, of course, wore their army-issued uniforms of blue and red wool, with a cuero, or thick leather jacket or tunic, over it.


Native California woman and Spanish man.  By Father
Ignacio Tirsch, ca. 1770.
The Native Californians, except for those at the missons, are always described as being naked, except for some bead jewelry and feather ornaments; generally, the men and children were completely naked, and the women wore skirts made of grasses or leaves, with the addition of animal skin capes in cold weather.  Some of the men (around Monterey) are described as having beards, and some have no facial hair, while the women have long hair, except for some north San Francisco Bay residents who wear theirs cut short in a blunt chin-length bob, with a straight fringe over the forehead.  Many people seem to have worn decorative and symbolic face and body paint.  The Spanish gave out glass beads as trade goods and gifts to all the Native Californians that they met.  Native men and women at the missions were given a woolen hip-length tunic and a blanket; men also received a breechcloth and women also received a wool petticoat. 

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)